Only 4.7 percent of all hourly U.S. workers were paid at or below the federal minimum in 2012, down from 5.2 percent of all hourly workers in 2011, the Labor Department reported on Wednesday. The total number of workers paid at or below the federal minimum declined by about 200,000 to 3.6 million workers.
It is unclear why these jobs are on the decline, but there are a couple of possible reasons.
The federal government has not raised the minimum wage since 2009. The economy has improved since then, so it's possible that employers have bid up wages to try to attract workers. For instance, the leisure and hospitality industry, which employs about half of all workers paid the federal minimum wage, has been adding tens of thousands of jobs to the economy per month, according to the Labor Department.
Fewer minimum-wage jobs do not necessarily mean workers have moved on to much more lucrative positions. Those in the leisure and hospitality industry still are struggling: The average worker in accommodation and food services made just $22,730 per year in 2011, far lower than the annual mean wage of $45,230, according to the Labor Department.
Eighteen states, including California and Florida, mandate a minimum wage that's higher than the federal minimum.
(Hat tip: CNNMoney.)